Today we’re welcoming Tommy Wallach, debut author of We All Looked Up, on the site to answer some really great user generated questions. Take a look:
Where did the inspiration for We All Looked Up come from?
The most direct inspiration for We All Looked Up was Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, a beautiful film about two women and an incoming asteroid. Trier’s film is an allegory about depression, not a standard story, so I definitely took the conceit in another direction. But I was thinking about trying to write YA when I saw Melancholia, and the movie sparked the idea for WALU a few months later.
You also recorded a companion album to We All Looked Up, full of original songs; what was the process of making that album like?
The process was actually REALLY enjoyable! I had a few songs already written that I then shoehorned into the text of WALU. Then I wrote some new songs that either directly reflected the story, or else related thematically. Then I got together with my friend Ben (who goes by his middle name “Lazar” when he’s producing), and we started discussing how to put it all together as a coherent album. We switched out some songs, changed some tempos and song structures, and talked out possible orchestrations. We did five days in a really nice studio recording the rhythm tracks (piano and drums were always recorded live by Ben and me, then other instruments were overdubbed), then spent another few weeks in another studio doing tweaks and further overdubs. It all came together shockingly well, given that we were on a pretty tight timeframe (mixing, mastering, and actually producing a physical vinyl record are SUPER time-consuming).
This is your first published novel—what’s one thing that surprised you about the process or path to publication?
I think the thing that always surprises people the most is just how LONG the process can take! I signed with an agent over two years ago, and the book sold in August of 2013. That means that, in most cases, you have a finished (if unedited) book for almost two and a half years before you get to see it in print. When I first learned about that, I thought it was crazy. But now that I’ve seen all the work the publishing house puts into design and marketing and building buzz, I understand it a lot better. In my case, it’s been a blessing, as the added time has really given the book time to build a bit of a following. Also, it meant I was able to fully complete my second novel before the first one was even released, which takes the pressure off for a few months, so I can focus on traveling about telling people they should read WALU!
You’re stuck on a deserted island with one character from We All Looked Up—who would it be, and why?
Hm. I feel like it would be pretty weird if I said I wanted to be alone on a desert island with any of my seventeen-year-old characters (though Eliza was definitely my type when I was that age!), so I’ll say Mr. McArthur. He seems like he reads a lot, knows a lot about philosophy, and keeps a pretty level head. He’d probably know how to build a shelter and find food, and if not, at least I’d get some good conversation while I starved to death. That said, if I had to repopulate the island after some worldwide catastrophe, I’d have to change my answer to minor character Sandrine Close. She sounds pretty hot, if I do say so myself.
What would YOU do if you only had two months to live?
I was recently asked a similar question by an English blogger, who wanted to know how high-school-senior me and modern-day me would answer. I thought it was a cool approach, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to share that response.
What would my high-school-aged self do? Man, that is tough. I’m trying to remember what life was like as a high school senior, and the only word that comes to mind is AWFUL! Being serious, and recognizing that a teenage boy is about 92% hormones and 8% brain, I suppose if I’d had only two months left to live, I would’ve come clean to every girl I’d ever had a crush on, and tried to land myself the awesomest possible girlfriend as quickly as possible. Then, I’d probably have tried to get her family and my family to travel somewhere awesome (like all over Europe), then end up somewhere warm and beautiful where we could stay until the end. (Keep in mind, my high-school self is living in Seattle, so getting out of the city would be a priority!) Of course, the marauding bands of Mad Max-style killers might get in the way of this plan, but we’d have to play that part of it by ear.
What would I do now? Not that different, except I’ve travelled a lot at this point, so I would remove that part. Maybe take my family and my girlfriend’s family and find some beautiful house on the Mediterranean and just hang there until the end. Swim in the ocean every day. Eat lots of delicious food. Read a couple of good (but short) books. Have sing-a-longs every night. Engage in lots of encouraging large group events. Only connect, as E.M. Forster once said.